During his fauxpology tour last week, Tom MacMaster, the straight American man who posed as Syrian lesbian blogger Amina Arraf, told The Guardian that he doesn't regret blogging as the "Gay Girl in Damascus," because, "To a large extent it's almost as though I were writing a novel." We wondered why he didn't just write a novel, but it turns out he already did!
Today the New York Times reported that MacMaster sent a manuscript he wrote as Amina to Minal Hajratwala, winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Nonfiction for her memoir Leaving India. He asked her to forward the book, titled A Thousand Sighs, and a Sigh: An Arab American Education, to a literary agent. Hajratwala writes on her blog:
I skimmed it, found it rambling and in need of a lot of work, and did not forward it to the agent - probably the best decision I made in this whole process. Instead I offered some editorial feedback via my friend's friend, and did not hear back.
We now know that MacMaster is just a dude who posted fabricated experiences on his blog, then got caught when he staged an imaginary kidnapping so he could go on vacation. Hajratwala says that after rereading the manuscript, which she posted online:
The faked lesbian sex scenes turn my stomach. The narcissistic writing, the sprinkling of quotations from the Koran and tidbits from Syrian history, the stock stories compiled from a thousand news clippings - it all seems painfully obvious.
So I find myself among the countless people - among them journalists for many (though not all) of the world's most respected news organizations - who today are kicking themselves for believing, and trying to help.
MacMaster threatened to sue Hajratwala for posting his unpublished manuscript online, but she's refused to take it down, saying it's, "important to keep the public record public, and to live with your own mistakes - rather than trying to cover them up or to blame other people for pointing them out."
In the past few days, MacMaster has certainly learned a lot about misrepresenting oneself, because he's now highly offended that there's false information about him floating around the internet. He told the New York Times:
I am also considering potential libel cases here in the U.K. involving publications and Web sites that published false information regarding me (including fake quotes and a fake interview done by an individual claiming to be me).
And his attempt to clear his irrevocably tarnished reputation didn't stop there. When our brother site Gawker restated information from the Times, MacMaster contacted the editors to say they'd published "erroneous information." He said in an email:
1. Hajarwala wrote first to Amina, not the other way around. She gushed over the quality of Amina's writings when she believed Amina was a lesbian. Now she finds them distasteful.
2. I am not upset about criticism or a bad review. My issue is the piracy and violation of my copyright. Hajarwala has viol;ated fair use policies (as have all those mirroring her piracy). Copyright law doesn't exist simply to protect nice people or only people of certain sexual orientations, skin pigmentation or social class but also to protect straight, white working class jerks like me.
3. Hajarwala's friends have tweeted calls for physical violence against me. The only thing I have done is request that she comply with professional standards.
4. I have sent a personal letter of apology for any hurt feelings to Hajratwala, which she has ignored.
Beyond this, I have no further statements until I have spoken with my legal counsel.
That's unfortunate, because we still have a few questions. Wouldn't a book deal have brought unwanted attention to the fact that MacMaster is an American man, not a Syrian lesbian? Would he have sent his wife to meet with editors? How did he image the press tour would have gone down? We're almost sad that we'll never get to see Oprah berate him on national TV.